It was a dark and stormy night, and I glanced at the time on my phone once more before laying it face down on the nightstand, never to be looked at again—well, for the next twenty-four hours at least.
A few weeks ago, I set off on a mission to see what life was like outside the confines of my tiny little screen. Although I'd like to say that this mission was born of my own conviction, I can't claim that kind of self-driven will power. A day without screens was an assignment for my Media Studies course, and one that I was anxious to see unfold; I know my relationship with my phone is unhealthy, but I was eager to learn the extent of my reliance.
When the sacred day came, I expected mild boredom or withdrawal…
…what I got instead were intense feelings of detachment from the world around me (quite delectably coupled with the boredom and withdrawal of course).
I decided to let to morning wake me up naturally instead of going to buy some old fashioned alarm clock beforehand. When the sun peeked through my blinds, I immediately shrugged it off on account of it being a bit too early in my mind. This exchange between me and the sun happened two or three more times before I finally decided to crawl out of bed. With no concept of time and no idea what any of my friends were up to, I walked to the dining hall. The only things that greeted my arrival were my friends' bewildered stares and the lone analog clock screaming two o'clock in the afternoon—they had just stopped serving lunch.
The rest of my day continued in a sluggish fashion. I avoided the screens of my friends as they crowded around them to laugh at some tweet or video. I crouched over my homework all day, not sure what else to do with my time. After my friends left, I sat in solitude just waiting for them to come back for me and tell me what the plan was for the night. My only companion was that taunting analog clock, the closest thing to modern technology I was going to get. Every tick of that clock was a lifetime as I itched for reunification with the other half of my heart.
And when that day was finally over, I jumped into bed like a kid on Christmas Eve. After I awoke the next morning to greet my phone in stark contrast to the way I had previously greeted the sun, that's when my mind truly began to race. How did my reliance get so bad? Why did I feel like gravity had been ripped out from under me and I was floating through space and time? All the current events and tweets that I missed—do they really matter? Have I given inconsequential things meaning in my life that have no actual relevance to the actual wellbeing of my person?
All those thoughts and more tossed and turned in my head like a tumultuous storm at sea. But as the next days unraveled and I fell back into my usual routine, they passed as storms always do. I'm on my phone just as much as I always have been. I only think about that day every once in a while…but I think every once in a while might be a good enough place to start.
Phones aren't going anywhere, so there is no use in trying to expel them from my life. However, my generation has so much of their identity tied up in their social media presence and the relationships and abilities that are heightened by technology. Phones were designed to complement daily lives, not conquer them; while I still may attempting to calm that constant clash for control in my life, at least I'm doing something.
My day without screens didn't give me the solutions to the problems, but it did open my eyes to what some of the problems actually are. I can't fix culture, but I can fix myself, and if I want to have a healthy relationship with me, myself, and I, then I'm going to need to have a healthy relationship with my iPhone as well.